I dropped some tofu jerky on the kitchen floor the other day. This saddened me because it was the last of the current batch and even though I scooped it up within the three-second-rule thing, I know how often the kitchen floor gets cleaned and therefore I apply something more akin to a three-foot-rule thing as far as any food/floor contact goes. I wiped the jerky with a bit of kitchen roll but I still didn’t fancy my chances and I wasn’t about to bleach it then eat it, so into the bin it went. Sniff.
I love tofu. I especially love it when it’s been pressed to perfection and isn’t a gungy spongy lump of goo, which it hasn’t been since getting my hands on a Tofuture tofu press. But I still wanted to make it meatier and chewier and wondered what it would be like dehydrated, which also gave me a good excuse to use my new Optimum P200 dehydrator.
A big, black, shiny beast came to stay. No, not a black labrador (my cat would pack her bags) but the new Optimum P200 Dehydrator from Froothie. I’ve been happily using my old dehydrator for the last year but that’s a round one and although it did its job, I’d heard square ones were better for the following reasons:
- The heat in a square dehydrator is evenly distributed – top to bottom and front to back – so you don’t have to keep switching the trays around while whatever’s inside is drying. Round dehydrators are heated from the bottom, so the bottom gets most of the heat, so you have to keep switching the trays around.
- Round dehydrators have a hole in the middle of each tray which a) means it takes longer to dehydrate the food; and b) means you’re losing space on each tray and makes it more difficult to make things like fruit leathers/roll-ups/crackers, etc.
- With a square dehydrator, you can take all the trays out and prove bread and make yoghurt inside the machine (no, I have no idea how; I just know you can). If you took all the trays off a round dehydrator, you’d just be left with the base.
So, when Froothie said, ‘Miss Ambassador Cathy, would you like one of our new dehydrators?’, although part of me thought, ‘I already have a dehydrator. I know how big they are. If I get any more kitchen gadgets – let alone big ones – The Meat Eater is going to go nuts’, the other, much bigger, gadget-loving part of me thought, ‘HELL YEAH’. Besides, I thought I’d be able to sell my old one on one of those Facebook local selling pages. ‘Thought’ being the operative word as, although I’ve sold a slow cooker on there recently, no one wants my old juicer and I reckon if I want to tempt someone to buy my old dehydrator I’ll have to put in the description that it can make chips. I just won’t tell them I meant kale chips.
The Optimum P200 dehydrator comes with a user guide with the usual operating instructions and do’s and don’ts. One of the ‘don’ts’ is ‘do not use with an extension lead’, and although it’s not even just a ‘don’t’ but a ‘warning’, I happily used it for a few days plugged into an extension lead because it was too big and noisy to live in the kitchen and so I moved it to the conservatory where there was nowhere near a wall socket into which to plug it. It was only yesterday when The Meat Eater complained about the noise of it (he does weights in the conservatory) that I mentioned it shouldn’t be plugged into an extension cable and did he know why. He did know why. He said ‘because too much power will go through and it’ll catch on fire’. Oops. It’s now unplugged and I’m going to rearrange the conservatory and find it a nice safe wall socket to plug it into.
Also in the user guide is some advice on how to prepare your fruit and veg before putting it in the dehydrator, and also how long to dry it for. As you can see in the above photo, there’s also a little guide on the top of the dehydrator, along with the temperature dial and 40-hour digital timer.
The dehydrator also comes with 2 x non-stick reusable meshes for placing on top or underneath the fruit and veg being dried, and 2 x non-stick reusable plastic sheets for fruit leathers/roll-ups, cookies and crackers, etc., along with a brush to clean the meshes and sheets with.
Since receiving my dehydrator, I’ve made tofu jerky and mushroom jerky in it, which have both been amazing and only take a few hours. I especially love the tofu jerky, which is simply tofu sliced and marinated in a combination of sriracha, vegan Worcestershire Sauce and liquid smoke, then dehydrated at 60C for about 4 hours (it’ll take less or more time depending on how thick you slice the tofu).
The mushroom jerky (mushrooms sliced and marinated in Reggae Reggae Sauce and dehydrated at 60C for about 6 hours) is great in wraps and stuffed in pitta bread with salad. With summer coming (we’ll forget it snowed today, yeah?), that means long walks and bike rides in the countryside and I’ve got it in mind to make some fruit roll-ups to take with me for an energy boost.
If you’re tempted to get a dehydrator but not sure you’d get much use out of one, you can try the Optimum P200 Dehydrator for 30 days and if you don’t like it, Froothie are offering a money back guarantee – including return postage costs – so why not give it a go?
*Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for Froothie and any links to their products in this post are affiliate links which, if you purchase a product through, won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission. I only endorse products I am happy with and I have not been paid for this post.
Man, these are as good as regular cheese and onion crisps, but vegan and healthy! The only thing I dislike about these dehydrated spinach chips is that they take twenty-four hours to make but only approximately twenty-four seconds to eat. Still, that’ll teach me to forget that a large handful of raw spinach shrinks down small enough to fit on a five-pence piece when cooked (or, as in this case, dehydrated).
Although the spinach was dehydrated at under 45C, I can’t call this a raw vegan recipe as it contains nutritional yeast which is pasteurised to kill the yeast so if you want to make it raw vegan, leave out the nutritional yeast.
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp onion powder
- Put the spinach in a mixing bowl and coat with the olive oil, nutritional yeast and onion powder.
- Lay the spinach on the dehydrator trays without overlapping and dehydrate at 40-45C for 24 hours or until crispy.
I tried some of Inspiral’s Crispy Baobab & Onion Kale Chips the other day and loved them so much, I wanted to recreate my own, but without the baobab bit, as I have no idea what baobab is. According to the list of ingredients on the back of the packet, the chips seemed to mostly involve kale, cashew nuts and onion powder, and so I thought, ‘I can do that’ and I also thought, ‘I can do that for a lot cheaper than £2.19 for 30g’.
So I did. What I also did is make them cheesy, so they’re kind of like cheese and onion flavour crisps, kale-stylee. Oh yeah.
If you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix (and if you do have a Vitamix, I am green-eyed with jealousy), you might not need to add as much olive oil. I needed to add it though because my cashews refused to blend without some liquid added (this is because I only have a £20 blender and not a Vitamix, sniff).
I ended up dehydrating these kale chips for about 24 hours. Depending on how big your kale pieces are and also on how efficient your dehydrator is, you may need less time. Just keep checking until they’re crispy enough for you.
- 3 large handfuls kale, thick stalks removed
- 2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chilli flakes
- Blend the cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, chilli flakes and olive oil until smooth-ish.
- Mix well with the kale, spread evenly on the dehydrator trays and dehydrate on 45C for 15 hours or until crispy.
A bag of kale seems to last forever, doesn’t it? If you’ve got a never-ending bag of kale in your fridge, here’s something to do with it. This recipe is loosely based on the one in Ani’s Raw Food Essentials – it was her idea to add the agave nectar. I won’t bother with the agave nectar next time as, although it added a nice sweetness, it made the chips too sticky for my liking.
I’ll also fill up all the dehydrator trays with kale next time because a couple of large handfuls (two trays’ worth) of kale seemed like a lot at the time but it shrank down loads and only made a ramekin’s worth of chips. And you’re going to want more than one ramekin’s worth, I can tell you.
- 2 large handfuls of kale
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- Chilli flakes to taste
- Put the kale in a mixing bowl and add the olive oil, agave nectar and chilli flakes. Mix together well.
- Dry in the dehydrator at 45C for about 12 hours or until crispy.
Other similar recipes you might like:
My cheapy food processor chopped the dry cashews okay but it didn’t like the bananas and refused to chop them, so I bashed them with a wooden spoon and the pecans kind of stayed whole. But the end result was delicious, so who cares if they look a bit ‘rustic’, eh?
As you’ll see from the recipe, I left my biscuits in the dehydrator for 10 hours but they were still a bit moist in the middle and therefore more cakey than biscuity. If that’s the texture you require, great – but if you want them a bit drier, then leave them in for another hour or two (or three or four).
- 2 cups dry cashews
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup dry pecans, chopped
- Put the cashews and salt into a food processor and process into small pieces.
- Break up the bananas and add to the processor with the vanilla and process.
- Add the pecans and pulse until everything's combined.
- Shape into biscuit shapes and dehydrate at 45C for 10 hours, or longer if you want them drier.
While I was thinking about what next to make in my dehydrator, I remembered I had a copy of Ani’s Raw Food Desserts and remembered that the reason I’ve never taken much notice of raw food ‘cook’books in the past was because a lot of the recipes needed a dehydrator. So I grabbed my copy off the shelf and flicked through and a couple of recipes immediately looked appealing.
Like this recipe for strawberry and coconut macaroons, for example. Ani’s recipe in the book says to dehydrate them for 3-6 hours but my macaroons were still too moist in the middle for my liking after that amount of time and also had a strange bitter taste, so I lowered the temperature and left the dehydrator running all night. In the morning, they were perfect.
I’m assuming my mix was so wet and took so long to dry because, when Ani stated in her recipe 1 cup of strawberries, I had no idea whether that meant whole strawberries (therefore leaving a lot of gaps/air), or to cut the strawberries up so they fit into a cup. I went for the latter method and ended up with a mix that was practically liquid. Still, even if I did go about things the wrong way, the end result was perfect, so that’s the recipe/method I’m going to post here.
I kept thinking these macaroons should be pink but then the logical part of my brain told me that this is natural food and the pink confection you see in the shops is pink because they’ve got food colouring added to them. If you like those biscuity kind of coconut macaroons you find in the shop, you’ll love these. And unlike those ones you find in the shop, these are healthy.
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- ⅓ cup pitted dates
- ⅓ cup agave nectar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups desiccated coconut
- Put the strawberries, dates, agave nectar and vanilla extract into a food processor and blitz until thoroughly mixed. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth.
- Add the desiccated coconut and pulse until mixed in.
- Shape into 10 balls and place on a dehydrator tray.
- Dry for 12 hours on 40C.
Why did I wait so long to get a dehydrator? What I’ve eaten from it so far has made me want to give up pizza and become a raw foodist. Well, that might be a bit hasty, especially as it’s Friday and Friday night is chippy chips night, so any new raw foodist lifestyle will have to hang on for a bit.
But, these raw crackers I made are amazing. I tried some raw crackers a couple of years ago when I bought some at VegFest but I didn’t like them. So I wasn’t expecting great things from these but now I never want to eat anything else, ever. They’re especially good spread with the best ever hummus and topped with olives.
The original recipe is here but I added chilli flakes because, well, you know… chilli…
- 1 cup soaked sunflower seeds
- 1 cup soaked cashew nuts
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup coconut water
- 1 large spring onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 whole dried chillies
- Put everything in a food processor and blitz it all up
- Spread the mixture evenly on your dehydrator trays
- Dehydrate on 48C for 15 hours (score lightly with a knife after about an hour and this will make breaking the crackers up easier when they're done)
I’ve been hankering after a food dehydrator for years. Mostly, I’ve got to admit, because it’s a kitchen gadget and, despite what The Meat Eater says, you can’t have too many kitchen gadgets.
The thing is though, what exactly does one do with a dehydrator? Yes, I know you dehydrate food in them, but what? and – more importantly – why? I know raw foodists find them essential for their diet, as I found this out a few years ago when I briefly pondered whether to do a ‘raw food week’ challenge and picked up a raw food recipe book and saw it mostly contained recipes using a dehydrator to make, amongst other things, pizza bases (which led me to briefly ponder whether I wanted a raw pizza, decided I didn’t and put the book down and phoned Papa John’s instead).
Then Vida got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try out one of their appliances; one of which being a food dehydrator. The time had come to release my inner raw foodist, hurrah!
After googling ‘what do I do with a food dehydrator’, I looked at a few websites, got thoroughly confused, so I asked on the Little Vegan Kitchen Facebook Page what people there did with theirs. One reply I particularly liked the sound of was courgette crisps. I did some more googling and found a whole load of recipes with varying drying times ranging from 5 hours to 15 hours, so back I went to the Little Vegan Kitchen and asked how long they usually dry for and was told 24 hours. Oh. That’s a long time. But I was going to make my courgette crisps, no matter how long they took.
Anyway, before I tell you about my courgette crisps, let me tell you about the Vida Food Dehydrator.
The first thing you need to know is that it’s big. I thought food dehydrators were about the size of a shoe box. This is more the size of a post box. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but this is not a small machine, so it’s not going to sit unobtrusively on your kitchen worktop.
I also thought food dehyrators were silent. I don’t know why I thought this but I did and they’re not. They’re not washing machine noisy but you will notice the sound, so my dehydrator has been banished to the conservatory where it can whirr away without disturbing anyone.
As with most kitchen appliances, the instruction manual is useless. Saying that though, you don’t need a manual for this machine, as there is absolutely nothing to working out how to use it: Put on the trays whatever fruit or veg you’re drying, put the lid on top, switch it on, turn the dial to the required temperature and press a button to tell it how many hours you want it to be on for (23 is the maximum but you can just turn it off and start it again if you want it to be on for longer – the instructions do say though not to have it running longer than 72 hours without giving the machine a bit of a rest). So, yeah, you don’t really need a manual, it just seemed a bit odd to get an appliance with no suggested recipes in the manual with which to start you off.
But I already had my suggested recipe from my friends at the Little Vegan Kitchen anyway, so I prepared my courgette crisps and about a day later they were ready and I ate them all in one go, they were that good. I don’t usually like dried fruit or vegetable crisps, so I probably only liked them because I made them, in the way a mother loves her ugly baby, but, hey ho. They didn’t come out properly crispy like a crisp, but I’m assuming the longer you leave them dehydrating, the crispier they get.
You’ll see from the photo above that I lined my trays with baking paper. Some recipes said to do this, some didn’t. I decided to, I don’t know why. I probably wanted to keep the trays clean.
I currently have some cashew, onion and sunflower seed crackers in the dehydrator and I’ll let you know what they turn out like.
The Vida Food Dehydrator is available from ebuyer.com for (at the time of writing) £29.99.
- 2 courgettes, sliced
- 2 tsp olive oil
- chilli flakes
- Put the courgette slices in a bowl and mix in the olive oil, along with the salt and chilli flakes to taste
- Line the dehydrator's trays with baking paper and lay the courgette slices on, taking care not to overlap them
- Grind some more salt and chilli flakes over the top of the courgette slices
- Dehydrate for 24 hours at 45C